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Book Review: 'Newspaper Blackout' by Austin Kleon turns pulp into poetry

Review: Austin Kleons new book, "Newspaper Blackout," is filled with witty and poignant transformations from news to verse.

Oklahoman Published: May 16, 2010
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Austin Kleon likes to talk about transformation when he describes what he doesn’t do for a living.

Kleon transforms newspaper articles into poetry. It’s a passion, but with his new paperback book, "Newspaper Blackout” (Harper Perennial, $12.99), his passion just may be transformed into a career.

"Newspaper Blackout” is a system of creating poetry: You take a newspaper, get a permanent marker, and you black out the words that you don’t need. The remaining words (in order) are poetry.

Its beginnings were simple. Now living in Texas, Kleon was struggling to write short stories in Cleveland, Ohio, and decided that "writing just wasn’t fun anymore.” He told The Oklahoman last year about his wife, Meghan, who kept issues of newspapers for her job.

"My wife worked in a crummy part of Cleveland, and part of her job was to go through newspapers and find industry news.

"At her office, the papers were being stolen off the front step. So, we had them delivered to our house since it was a safer neighborhood. We had this surplus of newspapers here, and I was trying to write. I noticed there’s a bazillion words in a newspaper, and why can’t I just use those words,” Kleon said.

The poems range from the apocalyptic to teen lust to just plain funny:

Gasoline

is running out,

and no I cannot walk

to the grocery

people might recognize me

Or this one, written perhaps about a boy, or a mentally challenged man:

Martin strapped in.

He was not scared

"This thing flies,” he said.

To prove it he jumped off my garage,

In his jetpack fueled by dreams

Kleon’s poems sometimes are full of social commentary:

Its (sic) the end of the world

And my heart is broken

The universe survives

In a FEMA trailer

To his credit, Kleon references other authors who have used similar blackout or whiteout methods with a list of suggested reading.


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